We live on 120 acres of rolling hills, about 1/3 wooded. It's destined to be a wild life preserve one day, so there are places here that haven't been farmed or touched in more than 16 years. The 'wild ones' know it too, so we have deer that stop to look in the back door at us with no fear at all. There are raccoons that live up the hill from us in a little holler. They're the reason our vegetable gardens have to be fenced with 7 foot high fencing. And I never begrudge them a sneak attack on the gardens either. I love to watch them, especially in the late Summer when they bring the babies out to teach them all about how to climb high fences to get at all the booty.
We have three ponds full of frogs, fish, turtles, snakes and all kinds of lovely scummy things just made for hot dogs to swim through. Nothing like showing up at the front door covered in green scum. Makes Mom get out the water hose to spray them down every single time. And if the green pond scum thing doesn't work, there's always little dead things to roll in. And then there's the piece de resistance...THE COMPOST PILE. What dog doesn't love giant mountains of horse poop? You can roll in it, eat it, carry it around, bury it (in the other compost pile, of course) and take naps on top of it when it's cold. Our compost piles get pretty warm in the Winter, steaming hot in fact, at least until they break down.
And then there's the horses themselves. There's a little game they all play with each other. It's a territorial thing. Willow, fierce bad donkey that she is, does not like dogs in her paddocks or pastures. Absolutely NO DOGS ALLOWED! And she'll give em a lick or two if they break that rule. (Although she's always pulls her punches. She's never actually struck any of them.) So, when they were a bit younger, all of them would take turns running past Willow. It was a free for all that I learned early on was not serious, so I always left them to it. And besides, if they were going to get clocked I wanted it to be by Willow rather than one of the horses. They were more likely to survive the experience.
Lucky's favorite game is to lean way over the gate and tag Gypsy. It's a game they've been playing since I brought them home five years ago. Lucky is tall and has a long neck, long enough to be able to reach Gypsy's back. Actually, I think he might be trying to groom her 'whithers'. He smells Gypsy on me and vice versa. Both of them see us as a herd, on Lucky's side, and as a pack, on Gypsy's side. Gypsy grumbles at him, but I've noticed she always goes back to the same place so he can reach her again too.
Joe is my Sam-Wise Ganges, like Bilbo's constant companion in the Lord of the Rings. He's always at my side no matter what. He walks into the paddocks, the pastures, the stalls when I'm there. He's very brave about it as long as he has me to stand behind. He and Apache play games together with Joe running between Apache's legs and under his belly. The two of them race back and forth across the pasture. Of course Apache always wins the race, but he pulls his punches too. The most I've ever seen him do is to catch Joe when his hair is too long and give him a little tug.
Newman is my half coyote/half dog. He's quite aloof. He has a job. He goes out to mark all territory surrounding the area that he considers our home turf. After performing his duty solemnly, he takes up a prominent spot under a bush or in the long grass where you can't see him, but he can see you. Horse games are beneath him unless other coyotes try to come on to his land. He is the outer guard to Willow's inner guard, even as old as he is. I've always thought that one day Newman will just run right out of his skin when it's time to depart this world. All I'll find is a bit of blond coyote ruff blowing across a field, or maybe stuck in the tops of the grasses.
Tonight I'm going to give you my recipe for homemade dog food. I've been making it for my dogs for more than thirty years, since our first dogs ... Rosey and Lightfoot (Golden Retrievers) ... lived with us. There a thousand variations on a theme, but this will get you started. By the way, all three of my dogs weigh over 50 pounds, so living as long as they have is something I attribute to good food, exercise and fresh air and love...lots of that! Rosey lived to be fourteen. Lightfoot lived to be sixteen too.
NANCY'S BEST HOMEMADE DOGFOOD
1. Things you'll need : one big old fashioned canning pot with a lid, the kind that is dark blue with white spots. I bought mine at a garage sale. About sixteen 1 quart containers that can be frozen. I reuse yogurt containers. They'll last for quite a while and since we eat lots of yogurt, there's a never ending supply of them around here. A big soup ladle and a big slotted spoon. It's going to take several hours of cooking to make this, although you won't have to be there to attend to it much. So this is one of those "take the time it takes" projects. It will make enough for about two weeks depending on the kind of dogs you have and how much they eat.
2. Things to buy at the store : one large chicken or two smaller chickens (variations: two big packs of chicken thighs, two halves of a salmon. I get those when they're on sale for being almost too old. A smallish turkey when it's on sale at Thanksgiving time.) 2 or 3 two pound packages of whole brown rice, 3 to 5 packages of whole wheat egg noodles. I also keep on hand sea weed, sea salt, garlic, and whatever left over vegetables we have in the fridge (green beans, green peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini...you get the picture)
3. Fill the canning pot with water. While it's filling, put in the chicken...the whole thing. Later you'll fish out the biggest bones to grind in a blender if your dogs are old. But it will cook for so long that the bones are going to be pretty mushy, so it probably won't be a big deal if you don't grind them. I do for my guys. You're going to fill it up to the bottom of the ledge, about 3 inches below the rim. Put it on top of the stove and turn it up high to get it boiling. When it's boiling, turn it down to medium and put the lid on.
It's going to boil for about 3 to 4 hours. You might have to add water to bring it back up to the ledge again part way through. The idea is to make a really rich broth.
4. About 2 to 3 hours into the process, add several chopped up carrots, a couple of chopped sweet potatoes, a couple of handfuls of either peas or green beans, lots of chopped garlic or dried garlic (helps to keep fleas and ticks off), a couple of handfuls of dried, shredded sea weed, a tbls or 2 or 3 of sea salt. It's a big pot. Put the lid back on and let it continue to simmer/boil for another hour or so.
5. After it's thoroughly cooked and the broth is rich and greasy, take your slotted spoon and use it to break up the meat into small pieces. It will be so soft, it should pretty much just fall apart. Then add your brown rice and whole wheat egg noodles. Give it a real good stir, turn off the heat, put the lid on and leave it for a half an hour. Come back and stir it again really well then(the rice will fall to the bottom. You want it mixed up.) put the lid on and leave it again. In another half hour, come back to stir it again.
By now the whole pot will be full to the brim. Stir it again and put the lid on, leaving it for at least another half an hour. I repeat this several times, at least four.
6. Fill your containers...it's going to be hot, so be careful... to within 1 inch of the top, snap on the lids and freeze until you're ready to use. I get out one container every evening and let it thaw overnight.
I add this to an equal amount of really expensive, no grains added, kibble about half and half. It's called Origens (Orijens?). Gosh awful expensive stuff, but they thrive on it. My fifty pound dogs get 1/2 cup kibble mixed with about 1/2 cup of their homemade food morning and evening.
The dog bowls around here are licked clean every time they have a meal. I vary ingredients every time I make this stuff, so it's always different for them. Your dogs are going to absolutely adore you for making this for them. It's good for filling teen-aged boys too, but that's another story!
I am ever yours, Nancy, surrounded by happy snoring dogs, all smiling in their sleep